How Much is My Personal Injury Claim Worth in Massachusetts?
Any auto injury claimant will want to know the value of their claim or what they can reasonably expect in compensation. An experienced car accident attorney will carefully respond to such inquiries with a detailed review of how injury claims are valued without giving the client any guarantees.
There are many factors to be considered in evaluating an injury claim. The ultimate evaluator is a jury, however, in the years before that, the entity offering the compensation is often an insurance company. Thus, your attorney will need to be familiar with how they evaluate injury claims and, specifically, your own claim.
Insurance and Other Available Compensation
Although each case is unique, there are similar factors that are considered in any injury claim valuation. First, your car accident attorney will need to know how much insurance is available since that is the primary source of compensation in a car accident injury claim. For instance, if your injuries are catastrophic leaving you blind, with a traumatic brain injury or paralyzed, or a loved one suffered fatal injuries, a defendant’s policy limits of $100,000 will be woefully insufficient but will be demanded promptly after those limits are known. Many auto policies are the Massachusetts minimum of $20,000, which then puts into play Underinsured claims.
In a serious accident, there may be other entities or parties that may have contributed to the accident. An involved vehicle might have had a defective tire, braking or steering issues. More insurance may be available if at-fault driver was driving a company vehicle. Faulty highway design or maintenance might have played a role that will involve a municipal entity. If a commercial vehicle like a trailer tractor caused the accident, then your attorney will investigate the truck’s data recorder and logs and other trucking company issues to establish some degree of fault and have their commercial liability insurance available that can be $5 million or more.
Liability and Causation
Liability and causation also must be established since if this is an issue, it will affect how your attorney approaches your claim and the compensation you can expect. If your own actions were negligent, then comparative fault might have to be considered so long as your own degree of fault is less than 51% or you will be barred from any recovery.
Your injuries must also have been caused by the accident. Many claimants have pre-existing injuries that an insurer will claim were not caused by the accident though you do have a right to compensation for any exacerbation of a pre-existing condition.
Other Factors in Evaluating an Injury Claim
Once a firm idea of how much compensation is available is known and liability is established, then other factors come into play. In any personal injury claim, damages are what drives the evaluation. There are 3 categories of damages:
- Special damages—past and future medical expenses, lost earnings, property damage and any other economic loss
- General damages—pain and suffering, emotional distress, diminished quality of life, disfigurement, permanent disability, and how your injuries have affected your daily life and future
- Punitive damages—awarded for intentional acts or that are grossly negligent or exhibit a willful, wanton, or reckless disregard for the safety and life of others. These are only considered in fatal injury claims in Massachusetts
An insurer will also review more intimate factors in serious and fatal injury claims:
- Age of the claimant or decedent
- The plaintiff’s demeanor as observed in a deposition and her credibility—does the plaintiff have a criminal history, has been voluntarily unemployed for no valid reason, has a pattern of suing others for minor injuries, or there is evidence of exaggerated or fabricated injuries and damages
- The willingness or intransigence of the insurer or entity to settle the matter or to offer reasonable compensation in settlement
Proof of Damages
Obviously, the more serious the nature and extent of your injuries, the more compensation you can expect. Your car accident attorney will ask for or subpoena your medical records, school records if relevant, and employment documents. Vital information to be obtained will include:
- Expert medical opinions—diagnosis and prognosis, that your injuries were causally related to the accident, the reasonableness of your expenses and treatment, any degree of permanency, future treatment and costs, and rehabilitation
- Accident reconstruction experts—if liability is an issue in a serious accident, an accident reconstruction expert can opine and conclude how the accident happened and who was at fault
- Economist—in a fatal accident or where a claimant’s injuries either severely restrict their ability to return to their usual employment, the economist can offer an opinion on future income loss and/or lost earning capacity
Damages must be proved by the civil standard of preponderance of the evidence or that it is more likely than not that the claimant suffered her injuries and incurred these losses and damages. This is also argued as proof that is more than 50% in favor of the plaintiff.
You can expect an insurer to do anything it can to minimize the nature and extent of your injuries or how your injuries have adversely affected your daily life and your future life. Having an experienced car accident attorney from Burns and Jain on your side can offer you the best opportunity to receive a fair and reasonable resolution.
Retain the Law Office of Burns and Jain
A car accident attorney from Burns and Jain has decades of experience in handling the most difficult car and other accident injury claims. We make no distinction in how zealous we approach each claim and will strongly advocate for you to get you the compensation you deserve. Call us today at (617) 277-7423 for a free consultation about your injury claim.